In the divisive waters of K-pop, SHINee is an oasis. Opinions on the group are often a consensus: if you aren’t a fan, then you at least sympathize with them. If you don’t sympathise with them, you simply don’t know enough about them yet. And if you don’t like SHINee… Who doesn’t like SHINee?
Debuted in 2008, Onew, Jonghyun, Key, Minho and Taemin have since grown into long lasting legends in the industry. Described as a “contemporary band,” the group continuously lives up to that definition, setting trends and reinventing themselves with ease and flair. They have received numerous awards, topped Korean and Japanese charts, and are regarded as mythical performers—the blueprint to many acts who came after them.
SHINee’s history is marked by overwhelming joy, realization, and five successful careers; but it also holds space for hardship, tears, and grief, including the passing of member Jonghyun in 2017. But SHINee’s symbol is a diamond—one of the hardest materials in the world. Together with Shawols (their fandom), they are a fortress withstanding the world.
After two and a half years, SHINee made their long-awaited comeback yesterday, February 22nd, with new album 'Don’t Call Me'. Throughout nine dynamic tracks, the group showcases their versatility, flowing from hip-hop (‘Don’t Call Me’), to reggae (‘Body Rhythm’), to their classic brand of groovy pop (‘Kiss Kiss,’ ‘CØDE’, ‘I Really Want You’). The group held an online press conference ahead of the release, and here are seven things we learned about their new record.
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1. They consider this album a landmark in their career
Dressed up in elegant black suits for the press conference, the members of SHINee were laughing with each other, excited to share their new music. Onew, the leader, says that “the title of the album means to not define SHINee within a limited point of view. Befittingly, we are going to show all SHINee colors and can't wait to showcase them all .” He also says that the process of preparing the album was very fun and memorable. “We really put a lot of effort into this album and our synergy especially shines in it .”
Taemin, the youngest, shares that SHINee “ showcased various colors with each comeback and brought different genres of music [in the past],” but he sees Don’t Call Me as a turning point because they opted for a hip-hop single. To rapper Minho, “it was a great opportunity for us to try something that we've never done before, not only musically, but stylistically as well.”
2. They are adjusting to the current world situation by creating new ways of connecting with their fans
Being an entertainer in times of COVID-19 is certainly challenging, but SHINee is taking advantage of the technological innovation emerging these days. “We're in the ‘new-normal’ period now with everything online, and it was a unique experience for us to participate in such different contents, ” says Key.
Minho adds that “not only did we work hard on creating the album, but we also thought a lot about teaser contents. Countless discussions and meetings. The entire process was a lot of fun. We're a bit sad that we can't meet fans in person, but we thought about how to create new opportunities to communicate with them .”
3. 'Don’t Call Me' was chosen as the title track because of its singularity
A hard-hitting, fresh sound for the group, 'Don’t Call Me' might surprise those expecting a classic SHINee groove. “There were a lot of funky, pop tracks that we considered as the title track, but for ‘Don't Call Me’, it was like a big final punch,” says Key. “The song is different from what we've done before and it really captured our attention. We think this track makes the strongest impact ,” he explains, punching the air to illustrate his words.
As the MC for the event, U-Know (from the group TVXQ!) states that “you can't not mention performance when it comes to SHINee .” ‘Don’t Call Me’ succeeds in bringing both the group’s distinctive dance and avant-garde imagery. “We all really worked hard on perfecting the choreography, and it took a lot of practice,” reveals Taemin. When asked about what the public should pay attention to while watching the MV, Minho highlights the performance and the styling. “Key gave great input regarding the outfits and visuals, so we're excited for you all to see it,” he says.
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4. SM Entertainment’s founder and executive producer Lee Soo-man guided their every step
According to Key, SM Entertainment’s founder and executive producer Lee Soo-man worked closely with them for this release. “We don't normally communicate with producer Lee on an everyday basis, but throughout the process of creating the album, he texted/called us frequently, monitoring all our contents and TV appearances.”
Minho also says that “Don’t Call Me” is a track fondly cherished by Lee. “It was originally for a female artist like BoA. We had to lower the key to make it ours. He paid attention to every single detail and gave really good guidance. We are so grateful that he took the time to be involved in this album .”
5. They tried to call their own ARS promotion hotline… but couldn’t get connected
“Since the album title is Don’t Call Me, SHINee prepared an ARS promotion incorporating the phone concept,” says Minho. Through a hotline, fans could call and receive special messages from the members. “It's kind of an analogue promotion—we left various voice messages regarding the album and it was a lot of fun ,” adds Key.
The messages also included the highlight medley for the album, and it was such a success that the server went down due to the overwhelming number of calls. Key says that the members tried to call the hotline too, but couldn’t get connected. “We listened to the voice messages that the fans left us and there was a lot of love and excitement. It was interesting to just hear their voices without seeing them ,” he adds. To Minho, the experience was moving: “there were fans who were really nervous leaving messages and, even though we couldn't see them in person, we could feel all the emotions .”
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6. What Onew, Minho, and Key felt after returning from the military service
Onew, Minho, and Key have recently completed their mandatory service in South Korea’s military. When asked about what they missed the most during their roughly two years away from idol life, Key said that it was “creating albums,” while Onew said that practicing the choreography was especially different. “It felt a little strange [when I returned], but Taemin helped me learn the choreo and perfect the moves,” he says. Minho, the last one to come back, shares that “it took about two months to adjust to my old lifestyle—practicing choreography, recording and etc. The members really helped me adjust again.”
7. After all these years, they still feel nervous to make a comeback
Despite having over a decade of hits behind their backs, SHINee still feels that specific mix of anxiety and excitement whenever they release new work—especially if it’s after a long break like this one. “Not only were we nervous, but the entire staff was also very nervous to make a comeback. However, we are all very satisfied with the result and I hope to receive 5 stars for our music!” says Taemin, making the room break in laughter.
In contrast, Key’s aspirations are simpler, but still meaningful. “ It took a long time to make this comeback, but we are still here creating great music and performances. So if [fans] can see that, we're happy .”
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'Don't Call Me' is out now.
Words: Tássia Assis // @_tassia_a
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